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Getting out on the open road is a great way to explore Japan, especially the more rural parts of the country where trains are less convenient. A car is essential to explore the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, known for its scenery, lakes and mountains. Begin in the busy city of Sapporo, then head further inland to the stunning Daisetsuzan National Park and scenic Lake Akan. The adventure reaches the far north of the island, with visits to Rausu and Abashiri on the Sea of Okhotsk.
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Arrive and transfer by shuttle bus to the Park Hotel Tokyo for a 3-night stay. (N)
Full-day private guided city tour using public transport, visiting the Asakusa Kannon temple, Tokyo National Museum's Japanese gallery, the Imperial East Garden and the tranquil Meiji shrine. The following day is at leisure to explore the city at your own pace. (B)
Transfer to Tokyo's Haneda airport, and fly north to New Chitose airport, which serves the city of Sapporo on the island of the Hokkaido. Here you will be met at the airport and transferred to the Cross Hotel in the city centre for a 2-night stay. (B)
Today is at leisure to explore Sapporo. Attractions include the Ainu Museum, which is dedicated to the culture of Hokkaido's native people, the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens, and the former Hokkaido Government Office, which is open to the public to visit the historical exhibition rooms, libraries and flower garden. (B)
This morning you will collect your hire-car from downtown Sapporo and begin your self-drive adventure in Japan's far north. Drive north for 168km through Hokkaido's heartland to Biei, a small town set among huge fields of poppies and lavender, undulating hills and agricultural valleys. Stay overnight at the Mori no Ryotei Biei, a luxurious Japanese ryokan, where you will also have dinner. (B, D)
Continue your journey with a shorter, 40-kilometre drive into the mountainous centre of Hokkaido. Your route takes you into the largest national park in Japan, Daisetsuzan, meaning 'Great Snowy Mountains', and protects forests of fir and beech, alpine meadows, gorges and ravines. Stay 2 nights at the Asahidake Onsen Hotel Bearmonte, located just a short walk from the Mount Asahidake cable car. The hotel has both indoor and outdoor hot spring baths (onsen), an ideal place to relax after a day exploring the national park. (B, D)
The Daisetsuzan National Park is a superb place for hiking, and today you will be escorted by a local guide on a day hike of Mount Asahidake, with the option taking a cable car part of the way or spending a full day on foot. (B, D)
Continue east for 255km to Lake Akan, a scenic crater lake in the Akan National Park. The lakeside settlement here of Akankohan is a bustling resort town during the summer, often busy with visitors who come to discover traditional Ainu culture, or hike the volcanoes in the surrounding national park. Stay at Akan Tsuruga Besso Hina-no-za, a small hotel with its own hot spring baths (onsen) and works by the master wood carver Takeki Fujito displayed in the lobby. (B)
Head to the far north-east corner of Hokkaido with a 150-kilometre drive to the small coastal town of Rausu, situated on the Shiretoko Peninsula in one of the most remote areas of Japan. Visitors can enjoy the a range of fresh seafood, walks in the surrounding Shiretoko National Park, or take a cruise in the Sea of Okhotsk with the chance to spot sperm whales, Baird's beaked whales, minke whales and Dall's porpoises. Stay 2 nights at the Rausu Daiichi Hotel. (B)
Drive west along the coast for 106km to Abashiri, a large fishing port. The following day is at leisure to explore the area. Take a stroll in the Koshimizu Genseikaen Wildflower reserve, visit the former Abashiri Prison, now an open-air museum, or drive out to some of the area's many scenic lakes. Stay at the Hokuten no Oka for 1 night. (B)
Your driving adventure comes to an end today with a short 20-minute journey inland to Memanbetsu airport, where you will drop off your hire-car before taking a flight back to Tokyo. Stay overnight at the Royal Park Haneda airport hotel. (B)
As per itinerary - B: Breakfast, L: Lunch, D: Dinner, N: No meals.
This tour is led in certain destinations en route by a local tour escort, while in others it is self-guided.
Driving in Japan is straightforward and very possible for non-Japanese speakers; Japan drives on the left, all major roads signs are in English, roads are very well maintained and, on the whole, local driving standards are excellent with all cars obeying the rules of the road.
This tour is based in 3- or 4-star accommodation, or the best available in the area. Hotels used outside of large cities are comfortable, but facilities are limited. Please note that in Japan hotel room sizes are smaller than in Europe.
This self-guided adventure is recommended for travel during July, August or September, when the high roads are open and the scenery is at its best.
Please note that tailor-made travel in Japan is unlike travel in any other country in the Far East due to the high costs of vehicle hire, drivers and guides. This means that engaging the services of a private guide and driver on a tailor-made journey is not always feasible and, as a result, sightseeing and travel between cities may involve public transport or shared services that are not exclusive to Cox & Kings. Furthermore, as English is not always spoken in areas away from the main tourist destinations, a degree of independence and self-guiding may be required. A comprehensive information pack is provided before departure, with transport instructions and bilingual timetables, hotel addresses and maps, and a guide for each destination covering a wide range of topics from eating out to enjoying a hot spring bath.
For a price quote based on alternative accommodation standards, to discuss flight options or to tailor this itinerary, please call to speak with a Cox & Kings consultant or
This tour can be booked / reserved online by clicking on one of the coloured links below.
NJE2020: 14 Nights
With numerous parks and wide, tree-lined streets, Sapporo is not only aesthetically...